First, to enlighten our readers who may not already know, let me present a definition: a podcast is an audio broadcast made available online for downloading onto a computer or an mp3 player, like an iPod. To tell the truth, I didn’t know very much about them either before this week, when it became my job to teach podcasting to my YAN students. Clara and I approached this unit with some trepidation: how, we wondered, were we going to be able to get all 90 of our YAN students to record their own discrete 3 or 4 minute audio presentation, all in one week, and all using one computer (since Audacity, our free audio recording software, only seems to want to work on my Mac). In spite of our unease, Clara and I created a template for students to use to script their podcast, and I prerecorded my own podcast, which I planned to play to students as an introduction to podcasting in general. And for the last two days, armed with printed copies of the script template, I’ve been in Limbe and Buea Town, trying out my podcast lesson with my first two batches of YAN students.

The experience at both schools was, I’m glad to report, a big success. Our students dove into script-writing with gusto, and had a great time practicing reading their scripts aloud and preparing to be recorded. When students came out to my computer to record their work, many brought with them a highly-polished and highly-creative presentation that they read flawlessly. Of course, there were occasional hiccups—mostly because Yakam in Limbe and Lucia in Buea Town managed to find ways of making everyone laugh and ruining several different groups’ podcasts. Luckily, Audacity makes it easy to cut out errors, and the end results have sounded awesome. Soon, once the podcasts have been loaded onto students’ websites, you’ll be able to check them out yourselves!

There is something about recording voices that brings out the silliness in kids (I suppose that’s a pretty obvious statement—indeed, there is something about recording anything and anyone that brings out the silliness in everyone). In Buea Town, once each group had managed to get through recording their podcasts without (too much) laughter, I came up with a game: I challenged our kids to see who could successfully record themselves reading a short text without laughing, while their peers stood in front of them and made silly faces. Only two kids—Ebanje and Sadis—managed to do it. Impressive. I don’t think I could have. Then, as I walked away from my computer to clean up the classroom, a few kids grouped around and started recording themselves singing. The results were pretty amazing--Noela, Wose, and Uche, it turns out, have the most beautiful voices.

All in all, podcasting has been going really well. It is so much fun to give kids an opportunity to brainstorm what they want to say, and then have a chance to play with this technology. And it’s also so nice to have a break from our Internet-heavy classes that are always disrupted by slow connections and power outages. Mostly, I’m just feeling a lot of love for the wonderful group of students we have this year in YAN. They are fun, creative, smart, sweet, and hilarious. I’ve invited a bunch of the Buea Town crowd over to my house on Thursday to eat some snacks and hang out and listen to music, and I can’t wait. I’m sure it will be a blast.


PS: In my last post, I made mention that a terrible kidnapping of a French family of 7 had occurred in northern Cameroon. In the days since that post, new evidence has surfaced that the kidnappers are a part of a Nigerian Islamist terrorist organization called Boko Haram, and that the kidnapping was in response to the continued incarceration of Boko Haram members, and also in protest of France’s role in the current conflict in Mali. As far as I know, the family of seven—including four young children—remains in captivity in northern Nigeria. I’ve also recently learned that the family lives permanently in Yaounde, where the father is an executive with a multinational oil and gas company, and where the kidnapped children attend school, alongside the children of many US Embassy workers, some of whom I have met. Though this event occurred miles away from me and to people I’ve never met from a country that is not my own, it still somehow feels quite close to home. These events are taking place very far from where I am living, and they do not present any danger to Buea at this time (nor are they ever likely to); but this is definitely a scary reminder that terrorism can emerge even in stable, safe places like Cameroon.